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CALLEJA (DIARIO DE NAVARRA)

Abel Mutai, an athlete on the verge of winning a race, misjudged where the finish line was and stopped running too early. Another runner, Ivan Fernandez Anaya, could have run past Mutai and won the race; instead, he helped Mutai cross the finish line and came in second.

“He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I couldn’t have closed.” said Fernandez Anaya. The photo of him helping Mutai across the finish line went viral, garnering praise from all over the world. When asked for a comment, however, his coach voiced his disappointment. “The gesture has made him a better person, but not a better athlete,” Martin Fiz told El Pais. “He has wasted an occasion. Winning always makes you more of an athlete. You have to go out to win.”

In another race, two Olympic runners collided, and, as the race went on, they helped each other carry on to the finish line. Neither runner won the official race, but later, both were given a special commendation for sportsmanship.

Some things are more important than a trophy. Maybe we should change the term, “human race” to “human family.” Life’s not a competition. Don’t listen to the naysayers, even if it’s your own coach. We’re all on the same team. 

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This morning I woke up and was so tired, I slid right back into that pocket between sleep and wakefulness. That seems to be the place where I hear sage advice from someone.  (God? My own psyche? Relatives who have passed on?) 

And this time, I heard these words:

Expect the best like a dinner guest and set it a place at the table.

Then someone (my mother? A teacher?) said to me:

What are you punishing yourself for?

And I realized it was both a mildly exasperated, head-shaking statement, as well as existential question.  

So I had to mull it over. What am I punishing myself for? What do any of us give ourselves angst over?

  • Choices you made when you had no choice.
  • Stopgap measures that turned into persistent problems.
  • Mistakes that led to doing penance in perpetuity.

Many of us feel we’re in that pocket in between what we’d envisioned life would be and life as it is actually lived. We may end up making peace with where we are and making do with what we have. But maybe “expecting the best” is the mindset that precedes its arrival. Or perhaps it’s the clarion call your blessings need to hear. 

What if they’re flying overhead right now, waiting for you to tell them where to land? If changing your mind meant changing your life, we’d all set that extra place at the table. That way, when “the best” comes knocking, it will already feel right at home.

Okay. So you say you want it all? Noted.🗹 

First, you’re going to have to start with “nothing” as a baseline. See, that way, you have a frame of reference. 

Next you’re going to have “some,” to help you learn how to manage “it all” when it arrives. If you don’t learn from this phase, it’s okay. We’ll helpfully let you start over at “nothing” again to get those More Muscles in shape.

Very few ever get to “it all” because even the ones who seem to have “it all” are deeply in debt, sick from their secrets and alone in a crowd. 

The “all” you’re really seeking isn’t a big pile of money, a perfectly-coiffed and curated persona on Instagram and a happily-ever-after with a stranger you met by swiping right on a dating app.

Actually, the ache for “it all” embedded within you is something else. Just as you’ve got a heartbeat, that’s your soulbeat. It’s:

  • Being who you are, no matter what room you walk into.
  • Learning every day that you don’t have all the answers, but that the questions themselves are sometimes the point.
  • Working toward a goal to engage all your faculties and your faith at the same time.
  • Using your own experience to know that people causing pain in your life are in pain themselves and greeting that grief with grace.
  • Getting to know and love yourself just as you would a “soulmate” so that you don’t end up with a “cellmate,” both locked into the self-defeating notion that you’ve failed to complete each other.

Life really is simpler than you make it out to be. 

  • Find your forte. Do that with all your heart. 
  • Find your community. Connect and show you care. 
  • Be yourself. If you meet a partner on the same page, be yourselves together.
  • Do your best. 
  • Take care of yourself. 
  • Be kind. 

Whatever you can’t figure out, turn it over to me in prayer. You may come to realize that in some ways, you already do have “it all.”

My apologies for not being around our corner of the blog-osphere very much this week.  As the three of us have discussed privately, we are all more than a little distressed by the state of the world and our country.  Every time we turn around, there’s another story of hate, violence and death.

It is so hard not to be discouraged.  I was shuffling through images when I came across this quote on the best way not to feel hopeless by Barrack Obama.  At first glance, I thought it was a little pie-in-the-sky naïve.

Go out and do something good.  You’ll feel better.

But then I realized that it was the same advice my mother and my grandmother would have given me.  Get up off your rear.  Get going. And do something good.

And it really is good advice.  I would only adapt it slightly.

Remember that we live in a broken world.  We, you and I, are broken and far from perfect just like everyone else.

When we pick up our phones and tablets, we have a tendency to link into news.  Even if you try to play a game, you may well be plagued with pop-ups.  Just today I’ve had one about a knifing in Southern California and another about decades-long abuse in the USA Gymnastics club.

When you read a newspaper, even if you read it every page, there is an end.  When you go into the web, there is no end.  Negative story after negative story washes over you.

So put down your phone.  Turn off your tablet.

Do something that doesn’t involve a screen.  Me? I’ve warped my loom and am making a scarf for a friend.  It isn’t anything huge, but it will make her smile.

School is about to start again.  My son and I made plans this morning to get his friends over here on a regular basis.  Screen-free time around our dining room table. This, of course, means that my loom needs to go downstairs.

But that’s okay. I can get offline right now and go clean off a spot on the old kitchen table I keep in the basement.  Putting aside things go sell or otherwise get rid of is also positive in that it declutters my home and the money can go into the church’s community garden.

Small steps.  Moments spent away from your screen.  I’m not saying that the bad things don’t matter.  But I am recommending that we not let them roll over us endlessly.  That level of exposure doesn’t benefit anyone in any way.

Do something small and positive. Small steps can carry you in a more positive direction.

–SueBE

Every once in a while, it’s nice to put the spotlight on people who were caught on camera doing the right thing. So much of what goes viral these days is about bad behavior, but there’s a lot of positive news out there if you shift your focus.

Like the young man who saw his six-year-old neighbor being attacked by a pit bull, so he ran toward the dog in an attempt to make it chase after him, which it did. He got attacked by the dog, too, but was able to get away after being bitten on the hand. Both the young man and the boy are recovering. Click here to see the video, but please be aware that it is disturbing. When I saw this video, I thought, That’s not just a Good Samaritan. That’s a great one. 

Or the group of random drivers who saw a car flip over on the highway, so they got together to push the car onto its side. Amazingly, the driver escaped the wreck with only minor cuts and bruises.

Then there’s the tractor driver who was startled when a mother bird stepped in front of his moving tractor to protect her eggs. Just in the nick of time, the driver stopped when he realized the nest was in his path. He even got down off his tractor and gave the bird some water.

Focusing on the positive is like building up your soul’s immune system. And with everything going on in the world today, we all could use a little inspiration.

Where did the phrase “under the weather” come from anyway? Surely no one is over the weather. Or above it somehow. Maybe there’s a travel agency for millionaires that allows them to exist in a pocket just above the jet stream. They get to bypass any dark clouds that rain on the rest of us.

Of course, that’s not true. Anyone can find themselves “under the weather.” It coincides with that moment when you realize you’re just not yourself. Who are you then? As it turns out, a stranger with bad intentions.

That happened to me last week. I became so consumed by the negative that I forgot there are always good things to focus on. You almost want to give your sad state a name, as if it’s a location on the map: Deep Doldrums, New Jersey. Not a nice place to visit, and you surely don’t want to live there. The roads are comprised entirely of potholes and litter. There are no traffic lights. No sidewalks. No safety features of any kind. Why? It’s designed by your own mind to be a dead-end street with no off-ramp.

The answer is to figure out what’s got you down. For me, it was health issues that seem to have no resolution, along with financial concerns. It took a week to work its way out of my system, but dawn finally broke. Once I shifted my focus to the part of the situation that I can improve and gave the rest over to God, I felt more hopeful. Lori and SueBE let me know they’ve always got my back, which helped more than words can say.  An answer will come along, but in the meantime, dear readers, don’t give up. A new day is on its way.

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed? It’s not just all in your head. Your experience is valid. Even if no one else shows up to support you, remember to show up for yourself.

Walk out of the room where negative notions gripped you. Keep walking until you find the room you’ve designated as Home Base. A grace-place where all is well, no matter what else is going on in the world. 

Search online for deep breathing techniques and calming music videos.

Watch a live stream from a cat cafe.

Breathe in through the nose. Out through the mouth. 

Remind yourself: You’re here, not there.

Be here, where that virtual cliff’s edge isn’t. Be where the worst that could happen, hasn’t.

Be in this breath. This breath is blessed.

Do something symbolic, like stretching toward the sky, reaching for the clouds. Light a candle. Watch old sitcoms. Go to Mayberry, or even Petticoat Junction. Everything’s okay there.

Talk to your own mind. Stay here. Don’t go down that dark alley that doesn’t really exist yet. In the peaceful place of yes, you may find the antidote to that no. Shelter in place until the looming doom passes. Keep the faith: The sun will rise again.

This morning, I woke up dehydrated and in pain. The first thought that occurred to me was, “I shouldn’t feel this way every day. There must be an answer to this!”

The answer in this case was to drink water. That’s the first thing to address. Lots and lots of water. Oranges are replenishing, as well. That’s the short-term answer to feeling dehydrated. Re-hydrating may seem obvious when you’re parched, but I had to take the problems separately, and also, not take them personally. Everybody’s got troubles. 

I’ve also been feeling unmoored, like I’m not really as connected as I’d like to be. Connected to what is unclear. To God? To a social group? To resources? All of the above, perhaps. Also to a meaningful project. A sense that I’m creating and building toward a goal.

But as I sat and thought about it, I’ve already started in that direction. I’ve been following through on my commitment to healthier eating and exercise. I’ve been writing every day. Trying to learn new things. Staying in a positive frame of mind. Granted, most of my energy goes toward finding creative ways to cover all the bills that are due each month. Figuring out how to access the infusions I need for my MS that cost a small fortune. This depletes my stores of energy and concentration, but I still keep going.

You may be in a similar situation. Feeling like you’re not moving forward. But don’t give up. You’re on the right track. Sometimes, you can’t even see the train because you’re on it.

Don’t lose hope when you realize there’s still so much to off-load. You’re carrying that cargo, sure, but you’re still moving through the countryside. Don’t lose heart. You’re almost to the next station.

Let me just affirm what you already know: Things are lousy right now. There is no equality, no justice. No hope? Sometimes it feels like it. Then I hear a little voice (it sounds suspiciously like Auntie Ruth) saying, “Focus on the bright side; focus on hope.” Sometimes, it feels foolish to hope. But hope, like faith, never claimed to be rational. It just is.

Advice for those who are sinking: First
find a reed, however slender, to grasp.
If muck sucks you downward, lie on your back,
float: improbably, hope will buoy you.

I read the handbook, yet trust forsakes me.
I hover, the slough still plucks and pulls.
Hope, foolish and fleeting, throws me a rope —
faith fills my chest; my heart is a red balloon.

When we moved into our house, the front yard was more dandelions than lawn.  I don’t mind a few of the bright yellow flowers but this was ridiculous. It took about two years of popping them up with a small shovel and composting the plants roots and all but now the yard sports only a few dandelions.

Imagine my dismay when I saw an article by a bee expert.  They are asking people to leave the dandelions in their yards.  The flowers bloom earlier than many and are top spring food for bees.  If only I had known.

With this in mind, I find myself looking different at the plants around me as we expand the community garden.  Could we give dandelion greens to the food pantry?  I hear people eat them.  And a friend makes wild violet jelly.  We had plenty of wild violets in earliest spring.

Violets and dandelions.  Are they really any different from the people we encounter every day?  Both were fashioned by a loving creator who sees the Light in us all.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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